tv [untitled] CSPAN June 10, 2009 1:00pm-1:30pm EDT
vote: the presiding officer: any other senators wishing to vote or to change your vote? hearing none, on this vote, the yeas are 67, and the nays are 30. three-fifths of the senators duly chow chosen and sworn haved in the affirmative and the motion is agreed to. mr. dodd: move to reconsider. lay that on the table. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from connecticut. mr. dodd: i want to thank my colleagues. this is again a strong bipartisan vote on this issue. it allows us now to get to the final passage. we've had i think about three cloture votes on this bill that
if we followed regular order, the vote would occur at 6:05 a.m. tomorrow morning. now, i'm sure the leader won't make us do that but that would be -- that maybe the price you pay for those many cloture votes we've had to go through. but sometime tomorrow, the vote will occur and the leadership will obviously decide when. but let me just thank again senator enzi, his staff, senator kennedy and his staff. they've gone back many years. i'm a place foirl this, filler , madam president, and our friend from massachusetts i hope is watching this because he battled ten years to get to us this point. if we can make a dent in those 3,000 to 4,000 kids who start smoking every day -- the estimates are 10% will not start because of what we'ring about b to do on this bill. and if we can make a difference on those 400,000 that lose their lives every year and those who contract emphysema and related illnesses, this maybe the most important prevention step we take in the short term on our health care efforts. so for democrats and republicans on both sides of the aisle here
who have made this possible, this is a moment they can take great satisfaction in having made a significant contribution to the well-being in america. and so i thank all of them for it, urge a strong vote tomorrow for the adoption of the legislation and then we'll work out -- we may not have to work out differences with the house but if we do to send this bill to the president for his signature hopefully in the next few days, and for the first time in the history of our country, the food and drug administration will be able to regulate tobacco products. and that is a major, major achievement on sale, production and marketing. so with that, madam president, i thank my colleagues again and would note the absence of a quorum. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his request the senator from ohio. mr. dodd: i withhold that request. i'm sorry. mr. voinovich: madam president, i request to be able to speak as if in morning business for 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. voinovich: thank you. madam president, i rise today --
if we could have order in the senate. mr. voinovich: madam president, i rise today again to call attention to the irresponsible and reckless fiscal path we find ourselves as a nation and to urge my colleagues to act now to take the first step toward meaningful, comprehensive tax and entitlement reform through the enactment of the saving america's fiscal future commission act. and i introduced with senator joe lieberman. and i urge my colleagues to take the time to read a recent letter from senator lieberman and i urging their support of this legislation. the safe commission has broad bipartisan support outside of congress, including the peter j. peterson foundation, the business round-table, the concord coalition, the national federation of independent business, the brookings
institution. i think if you can get concord coalition and brookings institution to support a piece of legislation, it's got to be pretty bipartisan and fair. and also the committee for a responsible federal budget. all of these back the safe commission concept as the way to tackle tax reform and our entitlement crisis. as you may know, madam president, recently chinese prime minister ja jew ry expressed his concern about the -- quote -- "huge amount of money chinese has invested in the united states" -- saying -- quote -- "to be honest, i'm definitely a little worried." he then went on to call on the u.s. to maintain its good credit, to honor its promises and to guarantee the safety of china's assets. madam president, i hope this frightens you as much as it frightens me. china is the united states largest foreign creditor, holding an estimated $1 trillion in u.s. government debt. though it may be unlikely due to
the complex interdpind not intet relationship we have with china, if china were to call in that debt, sell off its holdings or direct its foreign investments away from the united states, the impact on our economy and our national security would be devastating. i've been saying for years that we cannot allow countries that control our debt to control our future. and the fact is -- and i think this is a statistic most americans are not aware of -- is that foreign creditors have provided 70% of the funds that the u.s. has borrowed since 2001. as a result, 5% of the u.s. privately held debt is held by foreign creditors and that's going to be increased significantly because of all the borrowing we're doing. and mostly foreign central banks. and these lenders are starting to express serious concerns about the status of our fiscal
situation. and to be frank, they should be concerned, madam president. our spending is out of control, and as a result, our debt is skyrocketing. when i arrived in the senate in 1999, gross national debt stood at $5.6 trillion, or 61% of our g.d.p. the obama administration recently projected the national debt to more than double to $12.7 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2009. from 2008-2009 alone, the federal debt will increase 27%, boosting the country's debt to national income ratio from 70% last year to 89% this year. so here we are back when i came to the senate in 1 1999, 200, t, the federal debt or national -- 2008, the federal debt or national debt was 70% last year,
and today it's at 89%. and you can see that we're going to be very closely to 100% of our g.d.p. on our debt. i call this the pacman that's eating up particularly the interest that we're going to pay, money that could be used for other things. alarmingly, the figures that i just mentioned don't count our accumulated long-term financial obligations. the peterson foundation recently pointed out that the federal government has accumulated $56.4 trillion in total liabilities and unfunded promises for medicare and social security as of september 30, 2008. that works out -- listen to this -- to $483,000 per american household, or $184,000 for every man, woman and child in the country to pay for these unfunded obligations. in other words, we have $56.4 trillion in total liabilities and unfunded
promises for medicare and social security. it's unfunded liability. and if you look at it per household, it's a $483,000 for every man and woman in ohio, in the united states, $184,000. to be completely fair to president obama, our annual deficit and growing national debt have been problems for some time now, and, folks, i've come to the floor of the senate time and time again to talk about paying down debt, balancing our budget and so forth. and to my knowledge, president bush never once menentioned the debt in any one of his state of the union addresses. over eight years, it was like it didn't exist. never mentioned the national debt. and also, another disappointment for me is that he failed to deliver on tax reform as he promised in -- actually it was
in 2004 at the republican convention. promised all of us that he was going to do something about tax reform and he never kept his promise. but under the obama administration, we've really exacerbated the problem with an omnibus appropriations bill that includes $408 billion in nonemergency funding, a $787 billion stimulus bill, and a ten-year proposed budget where the lowest deficit for a single year is larger than any annual deficit from the end of world war ii to president obama's inauguration. madam president, i know we're going through some tough times. over the past year, we've been hit by an economic avalanche that started in housing, spread to the financial and credit markets, and then continued onward to every corner of our economy. i know it well. i'm a senator from ohio. we are spending money to get out of this economic mess but we cannot allow that to be an
excuse to continue our reckless fiscal path. we have to start finding ways to work harder and smarter, to do more with less, and it doesn't take an economist to realize that our course is unsustainable. i know it. the obama administration knows it. the american people know it. and so does the rest of the world. i just read a story to my granddaughters, "the emperor has no clothes," and i think that that's where we're at today. everyone understands that we have a real problem in terms of our unsustainable debt and the crisis that we have, but for some reason, we fail to recognize that we have the problem. according to a poll conducted by the peterson foundation, america's concern for the growing national debt takes second only -- only -- to their concern for their own jobs. the american people know that we cannot continue to ignore our
ballooning national debt and our continued deficit spending, which is projected to be $2 trillion this year. $2 trillion this year. and i just checked on ten-year t-bills that are starting to reflect people's concern about our future and inflation and they're up almost 4% today. the obama administration knows that we can no longer ignore crisis. and peter orszag, who i consider a friend, obama administration's o.m.b. director, has even said -- this is a quote from the c.b.o. director -- or the o.m.b. director -- "i don't want to sound like the boy crying wolf but it is a fact that given the path we are on, two things. one is we will ultimately wind up with a financial crisis that is substantially more severe than even what we're facing today if we don't alter the path
of federal spending. and, secondly, that if we are on that path in the future and something like we are experiencing today occurred, we would have much less maneuvering to fight those fires because we will have already depleted the firetruck." i'd like to say in due respect to the o.m.b. director, mr. orszag, the firetruck is depleted. we're already there. and i'm disappointed as o.m.b. director he has forgotten his commitment to entitlement and tax reform that he so boldly and loudly called for when he was c.b.o. director. you would think that a change in title would not cause such a memory loss on as important an issue as the financial health of our country. to me it can only mean one thi thing, that peter orszag's boss, president obama, must not be serious about addressing the gross national debt or, worse,
doesn't understand our fiscal crisis or even worse than that, that he doesn't care. just last friday, "the washington post" ran an opinion piece taking the administration to task for lacking a plan on just how we start to dig our country out of this financial crisis. the article details secretary -- treasury secretary geithner's trip to beijing two weeks ago when he went to reassure china, the world's largest holder of our treasury debt, as i mentioned, that lending money to the u.s. government is still a wise thing to do. he said in the united states, we are putting in place the foundations for restoring fiscal sustainability. in a moment that all americans should consider a wake-up call, mr. geithner was met met with laughter -- laughter -- when he told a group of chinese students that their country's assets in
the unitewerevery safe in washi. madam president, i'd like to submit in this "washington post" article for the record. title of it is: "no laughing matter: why the u.s. needs to get serious about long-term budget deficits." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. voinovich: this week, as you know, president obama announced a plan to reenact statutory pay-go. now, what is pay-go? pay-go basically is this, that if you want to spend more money, you either have to find other spending that you're going to reduce, or in the alternative, you're going to have to raise taxes to pay for them. or in the alternative, if you want to reduce taxes, you're going to have to raise other taxes to make up for it. or in the alternative, cut spending. but you've got to balance them up.
unfortunately, in his plan, he exempts the 201 -- 2001, 2003 tax cuts, patching the alternative minimum tax, updating physicians payments in medicare -- we all know what that problem is. i don't know, madam president, what it is in your state but we've got doctors now that are not taking medicare patients because the reimbursement is so low. and last but not least, modifying the estate tax. they would be exempt from these pay-go rules. folks, i believe this is intellectually dishonest. this does not reflect the high standards the president has set for his administration. and in my opinion, is more like the smoke and mirrors of the past that got us into the mess that we find ourselves today. the president of the committee for responsible budget put it like this: it's like quitting drinking. she was referring to the
president's pay-go announcement. here's what she said -- "it is like quitting drinking, making an exception for beer and hard liquor. exempting these measures from pay-go would increase the ten-year deficit by over $2.5 trillion." this is still her quote. the end of the quote is, "that's not fiscal responsibility." today i'm reiterating my call for president obama and congress to enact the first pillar of meaningful tax and entitlement reform through the enactment of the safe commission act. i'm asking my colleagues and their staff to step up and look at this legislation and read the "dear colleague" lear that senator lieberman and i sent this past week with materials from the peterson foundation. those materials for a senator or staff members really lay out what i'm talking about today. in addition, there's a d.v.d. that's called "i.o.u.-s.a."
i don't know anything that depicts our financial crisis as that d.v.d. does. the safe commission we're talking about would create a vehicle much like we do for the brac process, to take on the tough issues of social security, tax reform, and creating, by a vote of 13 out of 20 members -- there will be 20 members on the commission. two of them would be from the administration. but it would take 13 out of 20. and if we have 13 out of 20, the recommendations would be fast tracked through a special process and brought to the floor of both chambers. in other words, we give it expedited procedure, and then we have to either vote up or down, just as we do on the brac process. it would break the logjam in washington and show the american people and the world that we are serious about getting this nation back on track. madam president, for the life of
me, i cannot understand why president obama does not support this concept. i know that he's getting a hard time from speaker pelosi and from several other members there in the house of representatives, although steny hoyer is in favor of the commission approach to solving our entitlement and tax reform crisis. we all know that we can't get this done through the regular order of business. we know it. we won't be able to get it done. and the proof of it is we haven't been able to do it thus far. and so we're going to need the commission. everybody understands that we're going to need it. as i say, if i were the president, if i were the mayor of cleveland, governor -- and i know the president wants to move on health care. i know he wants to move on climate change. but he's got to know that from a substantive point of view and a political point of view, he's going to have to do something
about this long-term financial crisis that we find ourselves. and it would seem to me that he could go forward with climate change, he could go forward with health care reform, get the commission formed. it will take the commission at least a year to finish its business. and think of this, if the commission is able to get 13 out of 18 members to come back with a bipartisan solution to dealing with tax reform and entitlement reform, that would be wonderful. it would take that issue off the president's plate. in other words, sooner or later our president and his party are going to have to face up to the fact that the people of america are really worried and so are the people of the world about us doing something about tax reform and entitlement reform. and wouldn't it be great -- i mean, if i were the governor, as i was for eight years in ohio, and something said, governor,
you know what? you've got a real problem. and what we're going to do is we're going to put a commission together on a bipartisan basis, and we're going to come back with recommendations to get the job done, i'd kiss him and say wonderful. i could kind of forget about it except for two people in the administration working on it, and they came back with a bipartisan solution, wow! get it through congress and we deal with the substantive problem, and we get a big, big political problem off our plate when i'm going into the next presidential election. so, i just hope that there's some more thought being given by the administration, more thought being given by the congress. we all say, oh, yeah, we're concerned about the national debt, we've got to do something about it. but when you go home, where are you going to point to, the people, your constituents? who are you going to point to and say -- i'm sincere about this, i want to do something about it. then they're going to ask you, what did you do? i think one of the things you can do is say i support a
commission, a bipartisan commission. they're going to go to work during the next year. they're going to come back with recommendations. and this is the way we can deal with this problem that is going to be such a burden on the future of our country. you know, i came here in 1999, and one of the reasons i came here was to deal with our deficits and with reducing our national debt. and i was real happy the first couple years. madam president, you won't believe this, but in 1999, we reduced the deficit by $1 billion. really. didn't use social security. the next year we did it by $284 billion. that was 2000. in 2001, we just took off. and we find ourselves where we are today. i'm going to be leaving this place at the end of next year. i have three children. i have seven grandchildren. and i happen to believe that
just like the pages that are here today in this room, that they're going to have to look a lot harder -- work a lot harder than i did in order to maintain the standard of living that i've been able to have because the competition in the world today is a lot keener than it was 15 or 20 years ago. so they're just going to have to work harder than they've ever had to work before to maintain the kind of standard of living that we'd like to have for them and for my children and grandchildren. but if you think about it, if we don't deal with this problem i'm talking about today, we're going to lay on their back taxes that will break their back. put them in a position where they're going to have to work harder to maintain a decent standard of living, and then what we're saying to them, we're going to let you pay for those things that we weren't willing to do without or pay for on our own. and to me, that's absolutely immoral. it's absolutely immoral.
and one of the things that i would hope is -- and, you know, i feel like i'm a broken record. but i would hope that the holy spirit would somehow enlighten us to face up to this very serious responsibility, one that if we don't face up to will have devastating impact on the future of our country and our children and grandchildren. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his request? mr. voinovich: yes, i will. i didn't see the senator from -- mr. vitter: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. madam president, today i rise to speak on two crucial issues
which i had hoped we would not only be debating in the context of this f.d.a. bill currently before the senate, but actually acting on in that context. and so i have to say, madam president, as i speak about these two issues, i'm really disappointed we're not taking this obvious major opportunity of acting on a major f.d.a. bill to, again, not only have me speak, but all of us act together on the crucial issues of, number one, the re-importation of prescription drugs. and, number two, meaningful generic drug reform so that we get generics to market sooner as a lower cost alternative for american consumers. i want to touch on each of these in turn, madam president. madam president, i was glad to support my friend, the distinguished senator from north
dakota, and many democratic and republican colleagues in introducing an amendment to the f.d.a. tobacco bill to enact comprehensive re-importation of prescription drugs. this is long -- this has long been an issue that has truly united in a sincere bipartisan way democrats and republicans, many democrats, many republicans have agreed on this. i think it's important at a time when, unfortunately, the partisan divide and sometimes divisive and bitter partisan rhetoric is at an all-time high, it's important to find areas where we can bridge that divide in a meaningful and a sincere way. it's important to work on real issues and real solutions together and bridge that divide. re-importation is a great
example of that. and now, madam president, we have on record a clear majority in the senate and well over 60 votes for re-importation. we have a clear majority in the u.s. house for re-importation. and we have an administration and a president who are for re-importation, and he's on record in that regard in his service in the u.s. senate. in addition, we have an important issue that can save all of a sudden and can save our health care system billions of dollars as we go into health care reform, surely we need to be talking and acting in ways that can cut costs in health care without endangering the public, without hurting patient care. and this is a great opportunity. the c.b.o. has estimated that americans would save about $50
billion -- $50 billion, with a "b" -- over the next ten years if re-importation were enacted. so we have a true bipartisan issue which has true consensus support in the senate, in the house, in the administration, which can save all of us and our health care system $50 billion. let's act. surely this is a recipe for something we can act strongly on and produce positive results. so what's going on here? well, i'm afraid what's going on is exactly what my colleague, the senator from arizona, senator mccain, suggested on the senate floor last week. he stood bravely on the senate floor and read directly from a lobbyist e-mail, lobbyist, big phrma, the association which
represents the biggest pharmaceutical companies, and read a details e-mail about how they were going to block and derail this effort of mine and senator mccain's and senator dorgan's and others. i think seeing that come to pass, seeing this effort successfully blocked from the f.d.a. bill, something that's clearly a major opportunity on which to pass re-importation, a big f.d.a. bill, that's got to grow the cynicism of the american public. americans all across our country have to be out there thinking, okay, what's wrong with this picture? re-importation unites democrats and republicans, a big majority in the senate, big majority in the house, support of the president, saves the system $50 billion, obvious opportunity to pass it, an f.d.a. bill.
but once again it's cut off, it's blocked from consideration from moving forward. that's got to increase everybody's cynicism, and we have to work beyond that to pass this important legislation for the american people. i'm happy the majority leader has generally said that he would find time on the senate floor for consideration of a re-importation bill. we need to move. we would like a date certain, mr. leader, a date certain for that important consideration after so many years of waiting, after so many years of the big phrma lobbyists and others from blocking us from that consideration. and we would like that debate and that action as soon as possible. certainly appropriate as we go in to a major debate on health care reform. and, madam president, i would underscore the same message with